Unani could cure Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, but who cares

June 15th, 2008 - 10:19 am ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) When famous Hollywood actress Demi Moore revealed that she uses leech therapy to beat ageing, many in India gasped in surprise - not knowing that it is the contribution of one of India’s oldest medical sciences, unani. Experts in the field say it can even cure mental disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, but sadly unani has not received the same kind of attention as ayurveda. They say the government should patronise it as much as the latter.

“Whether it’s using fenugreek (methi) for diabetes or leech therapy (alaq-e-taaliq) for improvement of blood circulation, they are all unani’s contributions. Sadly, it has not received the kind of attention that is being given to ayurveda,” said Mohammad Idris, a professor of unani in Delhi.

Stating an example, Idris that President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, during her Latin America tour in April, spoke extensively about the goodness of ayurveda, not mentioning unani anywhere.

“Unani needs more encouragement and more exposure like ayurveda. The government should support it just like they patronise ayurveda,” he added.

Unani, like ayurveda, is based on the theory of the presence of the elements (fire, water, earth and air) in the human body. Hakim Ibn Sina, who developed unani in 1025 AD, was not only influenced by Greek and Islamic medicine but also by the ancient Indian medical teachings of Sushruta and Charaka.

Recognised by the Indian government, unani practitioners can practise as qualified doctors. However, in comparison to the more than 100 colleges teaching ayurveda in India, there is just a handful, around 35, teaching unani here.

“There is a tendency of attaching the Muslim tag to unani and Hindu tag to ayurveda, when both share many of their basic principles. True, unani has an Islamic influence and ayurveda a Vedic influence but both are interrelated. In fact they share many of their remedies,” said Ahmed Yasin, principal of the Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College in the capital.

“Did you know that unani has the cure for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s besides other mental disorders? Not many people do.

“Today modern medical science is talking about leech therapy for improving blood circulation when it has been used by unani for centuries. Cupping, by which an incision is made in a vein to let out the bad blood, is another of its contributions,” he added.

The college, whose library is full of Arabic books on unani, is extensively used by the teachers for classroom teaching.

“‘The Canon of Medicine’, Sina’s medical encyclopaedia, is an English translation of what is called the ‘Bible of Unani Teachings’. Like that, we have rich Arabic literature on unani which we translate into Urdu or English to teach our students,” Yasin said.

An expert himself, Yasin said unani is clinically a very strong subject.

The Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College, which is currently under Delhi University and is soon going to be developed into an autonomous varsity, also has a dispensary and a mini-pharmacy in its premises. The recently opened maternity ward there, according to Yasin, has on any given day an occupancy of 60 percent.

“If unani is propagated well enough, people will make a beeline to reap its benefits,” Yasin said.

Rajeev Kaul, a career counsellor, said that pursuing unani gives one the choice to either practise as a physician or as a research officer.

“People are becoming aware of the benefits of alternative medicinal systems such as homeopathy, ayurveda and unani compared to allopathy. Therefore, a career in these fields is viable,” Kaul said.

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